We first met Donna Quirk at 75 Chestnut Street, a restaurant and bar, in Beacon Hill, Boston. We were sitting at the bar discussing the start up of a Beacon Hill Running Club (which never happened) when Donna joined the group sitting down next to us. At the end of the night Donna discovered that she had no cash or credit cards so we paid her modest tab of only one beer. Donna and Sandy ran a road race together the next day and we have been friends ever since. Donna and her husband Tom joined us in Paris for six days and Donna and her brother Mark spent time with us in Mexico City. Mark has been doing Spanish immersion for a few years and is a bit ahead of Jim with his Spanish skills.
Donna and Mark arrived about 9am after sixteen hours of traveling and no sleep on the plane. They looked great and we had a shared breakfast with Jack and Dick before they leave at noon. The cleaners are in our apartment changing all of the linens and cleaning the house.
Giving Mark a tour of the house, this is the topmost of three terraces.
After they took a short nap, we went out for an evening stroll and found the streets teeming with people on a Saturday night.
Puerta del Sol, they both look very fresh for so little sleep.
The world famous Chocolateria de San Ginés.
Riding the Metro to the park Sunday morning so that Donna and Sandy can run while Jim and Mark walk.
Getting ready to run, at the entrance of Jardines del Buen Retiro. This park belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th Century when it became public. We love this park as it is a great place to walk, run and people watch.
El Retiro Lake and a monument to Alfonso XII.
Crystal Palace in the park. This was modeled on London’s Crystal Palace.
Green parakeets, we have seen these in Tel Aviv and London also. they are quite the squawkers though.
At the end of our walk and run these equestrians came riding by, some of them dressed quite smartly.
Palacio de Cibeles, formerly the city’s main post office and telegraph and telephone headquarters, it is now occupied by Madrid City Council, serving as the city hall, and the public cultural centre CentroCentro. There is also a rooftop restaurant.
Banco de España.
The Four Seasons Hotel, formerly a Bank.
This is The Council of Environment, Housing and Agriculture.
The statue of the bear and the strawberry tree, El Oso y el Madroño, represents the coat of arms of Madrid. The story of how this came to be is quite confusing. We still don’t understand it.
Atocha train Station, the old part is visible and is now filled with plants and trees. The new train station is attached a bit farther down.
The inside of the old train station. We are here to take a train to Toledo which is 30 minutes by train, south of Madrid.
The inside of the train station in Toledo, with old unused ticket windows.
The moorish outside of the train station.
Toledo was once Spain’s capital. It sits on a rocky perch and is protected on three sides by a river and a stone escarpment on the fourth side.
A Moorish gate at the top of the hill.
This is a busy tourist town, but if you get lost in the narrow alleys you can be all alone.
We had an early lunch at the lovely Restaurante Los Cuatro Tiempos. Highly recommended. We were so cold that we all started with soup.
Our first and only stop was the Toledo Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church which is one of three 13th century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain and is considered to be the Magnus opus of the Gothic style in Spain. It was built on top of the site of a Muslim mosque and before that had been a church in the sixth century.
The church has five naves and 15 chapels. The roof is supported by 88 columns.
The Altarpiece in the main chapel has five sections, depicting scenes from the New Testament
In the upper body of the main chapel is the Emperor’s Organ built between 1543-1549. A beautiful gothic rose window completes the ensemble
One of the cathedrals most outstanding features is El Transparente which refers to the unique illumination provided by a large Baroque skylight to allow shafts of light to strike the tabernacle of the main altar. It is several stories high and during morning mass the sun shining from the east gives off the impression that the whole altar is rising to heaven.
This is essentially a camouflaged skylight.
The Chapterhouse has a gallery of portraits of all the archbishops. The walls are adorned with a celebrated series of frescoes. This constitutes one of the greatest collections of Spanish wall paintings.
One of many beautiful Baroque vaulted ceilings.
El Greco’s renowned painting of Ex Expolio (The Disrobing of Christ)1579. Domenikos Theotokopoulos aka El Greco (the Greek) was born in 1541 in Crete, Greece which at the time was a Venetian possession.
The Choir which is one of the most beautiful in all of Europe and a French sculpture from the 16th century called The White Virgin.
Chapel of St Blaise.
Mark in the square outside the Cathedral
Hamming it up in front of Miguel de Cervantes statue. He wrote Don Quixote.
This photo looks like a postcard.
Here is proof that it is not. This was taken as we were leaving Toledo. It was an uncomfortable blustery raw very cold day which is why we did not stay long however we did contribute to the Toledo economy at a lovely shop on the way out of town. Toledo is known for three home grown crafts: Damascene (interlaced gold on steel, applied to jewelry) and steel swords and Marzipan. We skipped the Marzipan (a confection of sugar, honey and almond meal) but bought the jewelry and opted for steel knives instead of swords.
Located on the banks of the Tagus in central Iberia, Toledo is known as the “Imperial City” and was the original capital of Spain from 542 to 725 AD. It was also known as the “City of Three Cultures” for the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Leaving Toledo was not so easy and Sandy and Donna both purchased kitchen knives which really show up on security scans done before boarding the train. We had to show purchase receipts and passport numbers to board the train back to Madrid.
The following day, Donna and Mark took a 90 minute English speaking tour of the Prado which we took a week earlier and recommended. They enjoyed it very much.
Since we had previously taken that tour we explored on our own and met up with them after. We became “friends” the museum so we can go as often as we like and bring guests for free.
There are so many beautiful grand fountains in this city.
Donna snagged some beautiful outfits shopping on “Rodeo Drive” of Madrid. Here she is sporting about five layers of clothing to keep warm. It makes for a challenge trying on outfits in the dressing room!
Mark’s wife recommended this store but alas it was closed so we just window shopped
We logged 40 miles walking/running in 6 days. Jim, as always, was a great human GPS guide. Here he is checking out our next route.
Rain did not deter us from exploring. Mark commented “there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing!
Julia is the name of a 12 meter high sculpture by Jaume Pllensa in the Plaza de Colon. It is made from polyester and marble dust. A real eye catcher.
It was raining really hard on our way home from this days adventure but it did not keep us from waiting a very long time in front of this moving street ad to capture the image we wanted.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. Raining raining raining!
We were finally rewarded as it flashed across the screen many minutes later as we were getting drenched and Jim patiently and smartly waited under his umbrella for us to capture the moving image.
Beautiful doors of Madrid.
Our next stop was to the Madrid Botanical Garden where we enjoyed the early spring blooms.
Almost ready to pop.
Eastern Redbud, very common in the southeastern US.
Early rhododendron tree blooms.
Magnificent Palm Trees.
More elegant door entrances.
Translated Unesco World Heritage Site.
Spaniards protesting Russia’s war with Ukraine, in front of the Russian Embassy.
We love guests that have agendas of things to do and see. Mark wanted to see the monastery of El Escorial. It was a bitter cold day so we took a 30 minute taxi ride to the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial which is located in the Guadarrama mountains of central Spain.
El Escorial is a complex of buildings, courtyards and fountains. Built between 1563 and 1584 by order of King Philip ll, it is the largest Renaissance building in the world. It functions as a monastery, basilica, royal palace, pantheon, library, museum, university, school and hospital.
No pictures allowed inside.
King Philip ll was the only monarch to live here and his bedroom had a door that opened up to the main altar so that he could watch the Mass being said while lying in his bed. He was quite sickly and had very bad gout.
We took a tour that was offered by a local guide which lasted much longer than we wanted.
Beautiful gardens that we did not take the time to explore. We were cold and tired of touring.
After the tour we enjoyed getting warm in a local restaurant and had a very long lunch here starting with a delicious bowl of hot soup.
The restaurant ceiling was lined with wine bottles between the wooden rafters
Donna toting home her purchases
We were glad to see the scaffolding come down from our building
Our Air BNB is on the top floor. One of our guest rooms is in the turret and has a round bed to accommodate for the shape of the room. I honestly do not know the contortions our maid must endure to change the sheets.
Mark’s other agenda was to go to the Reina Sofia museum for the sole purpose to see Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.
Guernica is one of Picasso’s best known works and regarded by many art critics as the most moving and powerful anti- war painting in history. The 11ft 5 inch across grey, black and white painting depicts the suffering wrought by the violence and chaos of war. We of course could not take a photo of it so we have copied and pasted one off the internet below. We thought given the war presently going on in the Ukraine that this was an appropriate and solemn work of art for us to see.
We enjoyed the garden of the museum for the few seconds it wasn’t raining.
This is the rear garden of the Madrid Palace.
Another agenda of Mark’s was to eat at Casa Benigna Patelleria Restaurant
To enter the restaurant you need to knock on the door. Once inside you marvel at the eclectic decor and great signage in a very snug and cozy space.
The restaurant has a very high rating on trip advisor and specializes in serving four types of Paella. We had a sampling of two, one seafood and one meat. both were good but the seafood one was our favorite. It was a great dining experience with lots of pomp serving of the dishes.
Gracias and Adios Donna and brother Mark for a most enjoyable, fun, fully packed week. You were great guests and we were sad to see you go but we hope you will visit us again somewhere as we explore this amazing world that we live in.